The class of 2022 has been through many ups and downs, with their last year as undergraduate students being the first primarily in-person school year since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Among this group is Paul Oburu, a computer science major, business owner, photographer, Pirates fan, and proud Seton Hall student from Kenya who hasn’t seen his family in three years due to COVID-19.
Oburu is the CEO, founder, senior design manager, and executive marketing assistant of BRAND Apparel, a clothing line that he began in high school. BRAND Apparel can be found on Instagram @brvndaprl.
“We typically love to ascribe or put a lot of money or attention to a lot of large name brands,” Oburu said. “Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Supreme, things of that nature, so I wanted to create a brand that was fashionable and fit to trends but didn’t have a name.”
Oburu said that he envisions BRAND Apparel to be a large, global e-commerce website along with its own boutique.
“I’ve started off with the support of my friends and people on campus with the hopes of developing a following and attention back home in Kenya and later the world – something that people back home could kind of feel like they own,” Oburu said.
Oburu said that because BRAND Apparel is currently a startup business, his clothing pieces are primarily marked with his logo. He added that once BRAND Apparel takes off, the goal is to include more designs and create his own garments from scratch.
“The ability to express oneself freely or provide your take on a concept, a product, or a solution to a problem is pretty cool,” Oburu said. “You can bring a bit of your culture, your own identity, and create a product or something that other people can resonate with.”
Oburu said that owning a business has improved his sense of responsibility and ability to work alongside other people.
“Especially when you have other partners and people involved in a larger business, you’re going to have people that you have to work alongside, work in collaboration with, get certain information to,” Oburu said. “You have to be very orderly. You have to be very organized. Accountability is a huge thing.”
Oburu said that, while he enjoys the freedom of having his own brand, there is a lot to consider in terms of the business world.
“It’s taught me a lot about being able to consider my target market,” Oburu said. “As much as I might have an idea to create and to make something that I want, it’s taught me that I should also follow trends of the market and the people that I am working toward.”
Oburu added that because his brand is currently targeted to people in Kenya, it is important that he is culturally aware when making design choices.
“I have to remember the things that people in my culture and society accept,” Oburu said. “Country colors, flags, logos, designs, things that are accepted in our culture may not be accepted elsewhere. It’s not enough for me to just be creative on my own but to talk with people from different cultures, places, and see what it is that I can merge to create one larger product.”
Oburu said that despite being unable to visit home, his family remains his biggest support system.
“They’ll give me good advice on things,” Oburu said. “And, of course, with pain comes wisdom. They’re very understanding and supportive of my goals, and my aspirations, too.”
In addition to BRAND Apparel, Oburu is in charge of @bluebeardarmy, the official Instagram account for Seton Hall sports fans.
Oburu said that attending basketball games was the highlight of his freshman year.
“Being an international student, and also an avid fan of basketball, I really loved watching the sport,” Oburu said. “And so, for me, finally coming to the U.S. and being able to be in an arena, around people, and see what everything was like – I wanted to be a part of that.”
Oburu said that running @bluebeardarmy allows him to translate his passion for photography and video-making into memories for students.
“When I’m a fan of something, I’m going to be a big fan, so I want to bring my energy, bring my support and everything,” Oburu said. “If you’re not a big fan of sports, attend a game, be involved in a club, make friends with people who are like-minded because that will help you settle in and be better.”
Oburu said that despite being “a numbers guy,” he is open to pursuing his knack for being behind the camera.
“From a young age, I used to watch the YouTube ads of GoPro, and I always wanted one,” Oburu said. “After years of pleading, my dad finally got me one my junior year of high school. That camera is what ignited my passion for videography and photography–just being able to take videos and capture things from my point of view.”
Oburu said he appreciates the tight-knit community that Seton Hall has to offer.
“It’s not like Duke with thirty thousand students in an arena cheering, but with the few eight hundred that we have in the student section, you’ve got to make it fun,” Oburu said. “That way, you’ll enjoy yourself the most.”
He added that the “different characters of people” he has encountered and their passion for the school have inspired him.
“It’s very important to have friends and people who will challenge you to do things because, that way, you’ll be able to unlock potential, and also see in yourself what you are capable of doing,” Oburu said.
Oburu said that Seton Hall became a home away from home throughout his college years.
“As an international student, I had a lot of anxieties and worries about what college in the U.S. could be like,” Oburu said. “I wanted to do my best with my time here to speak with people who are coming into the school to help them feel comfortable and like this place could be home because, in a way, Seton Hall has become like a home for me.”
Peyton Hruska can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org